‘Fake Threat…Real Consequences:’ Lee schools, police, to treat all treats severely
By CJ HADDAD
Lee County schools and law enforcement have a message for students and parents: Threats are not funny and will not be treated as a prank.
The School District of Lee County launched a campaign Tuesday in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies to warn students of the repercussions they may face if they make a fake threat against a school or fellow student.
“Fake ThreatReal Consequences” sees the school district teaming up with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Cape Coral Police Department, Fort Myers Police Department and Sanibel Police Department to help mitigate the number of “fake threats” schools receive over the course of the year.
“Today, the School District of Lee County and our partners in law enforcement are launching a campaign to better keep out students and staff safe,” said School District of Lee County Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins. “‘Fake Threat Real Consequences’ is an intuitive to deter threats and help students realize that when they make a threat of violence, even if they do not mean it, they will face serious consequences.”
Adkins reported that in the ’16-’17 school year, 51 threats were reported in Lee County schools.
That number more than tripled last year, as 164 threats were reported.
Adkins said that thankfully, the majority of the threats had no true, malicious intent behind them, but “jokes,” students wanting a day off, or to interrupt testing periods.
“The message today is simple. If you make a threat, you face suspension, expulsion, arrest and a felony record,” said Adkins.
He said these threats, even if found not credible, take away from classroom learning and causes stress and anxiety for parents, students and staff.
“A lot of our students don’t understand how serious these consequences can be,” Adkins said.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, Cape Coral Police Deputy Chief Anthony Sizemore, Fort Myers Police Chief Derrick Diggs and Sanibel Police Chief William Dalton were all there on behalf of their agencies to help promote the initiative.
“‘Fake threat’ is still a real investigation,” said Sizemore. “Every one is treated as if it were legitimate. All the resources are expended, no stone is left unturned. Our children’s safety, our school employees’ safety and our school resource officers’ safety is paramount. Any fake threats, you will got to jail. You will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We just want to keep a safe, welcoming learning environment for schools.”
“It’s real simple why we’re here today. First and foremost: zero tolerance,” said Marceno. “We are not going to tolerate any kind of threat – whether it’s fake, it will be treated real. Our No. 1 goal, not only zero tolerance, but will always be the safety and security of our children in this county. And we take that to the bank. You can rest assured that we will make sure our children are safe when they come to school.”
A pubic service announcement video was made for all four of the partnering agencies, which will be shown across Lee County schools, along with posters about the campaign.
Adkins said it will also be a topic at parent meetings.
Getting the message out to students will be a top priority for officials.
“I think that one of the things we’ve seen since the tragedy over in Parkland, is we’ve seen an increase in activity on social media as it relates to threats because of all the attention that came to bear on that particular incident,” said Adkins. “We have to make sure our kids understand that with these threats come consequences.
“My concern just moving forward is that technology changes and is always evolving, and how are students communicate is always evolving. We have to be responsive to that and make sure we use those platforms to get the message out.”
The law enforcement agencies present will work cohesively to make sure any threat, be it real or fake, is fully investigated and that there are no credible threats present in schools.
“It’s the whole team together,” said Marceno. “Our departments interact and communicate on a continual basis. I can assure you that our SRO’s – although uniform and patch may be different – are one team.”
“I’ve been just amazed at how (officers) are able to do their job and identify that person,” said Adkins. “My message would be, to students, is ‘Please do not think that you’re going to be able to get away with this type of a threat, because they have tools that you have no idea what they are, that they will use to track down who this person is, and in the investigation bring justice to that person.”
For students who may be using a threat as a “cry for help” or has mental health issues that need to be addressed, they will be done so by the schools and law enforcement agencies alike.
“We look at the mental health aspect, and if someone needs that help, we’re going to get them where they need to be,” said Marceno. “We also work behind the scenes-our investigators, our detectives work together with all the entities here to make sure we are sharing communication, making sure that this person, individual, whoever it may be, is now on the radar. We need to identify, and keep that person on the radar to make certain, to be proactive, so there are no incidents in the future.”
For more information on the campaign, visit www.leeschools.net.
-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj